Sunday, June 29, 2008

Something different on a Saturday night

"So when are we meeting up to go to the Roller Derby?"

Those are words I never expected to utter, but that's what I said on the phone with Kate on Saturday afternoon as we were planning our night. Two of her roommates are on the Queens of Pain team in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league, and on Saturday evening we went to the gym at Hunter College to see them play the Brooklyn Bombshells. I had never seen roller derby before, so I had no idea what I was going to see. I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had.

The entertainment started early. Since it takes a while to get through the metal detectors and security at Hunter College, and because the league likes to raise money, they played bingo to pass the 90 minutes or so between opening the doors and starting the bout. They also sold tickets to a 50-50 raffle and talked about the halftime entertainment. The bout started at 8:30 PM and I was lost for the first few minutes. Actually, I was lost for most of the night, but gradually I figured out how the game worked. The bout has two 30-minute halves. The players rotate in and out of the game during stoppages, sort of like a hockey lineup. Each "jam" is about two minutes and features a "jammer" from each team wearing a star on their helmet. Everyone skates counterclockwise (turning left as in NASCAR) and the jammers have to work their way through the pack (the blockers) and pass everyone from the other team in order to score points. There are penalties, injuries, and strategies, some of which I understood but most were lost on me. Queens jumped out to an early lead and at halftime was up by 30 points. But they had a few injured players so the team had to double-shift, which wore them down as the game went on. After a halftime show of bicycle polo and a cheerleader performance, Brooklyn chipped away at the lead and got it under 30 before Queens managed to hold on for the win. They did so in front of a packed gym full of Brooklyn supporters, who cheered lustily for their team. I was shocked to see a full gym on a summer Saturday night, filled with people who were as into the game as this crowd was. Kate cheered for her friends and yelled at the referees on questionable penalty calls the same way she yells at the TV during Yankee games, which I thought was funny. I guess sports are sports.

At the end of the night we congratulated Kate's roommates and then went in search of food and drink, which we found at a nearby pub. We all had such a good time that we're definitely going back. Next time I'll even know where to sit and what kind of photos to take.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Goin' home

Well, that was fun. But all good things must come to an end, and I'm on my way back to New York. I had a good time in Florida. I learned a few things about the product we use, I learned a few things about myself (mostly, that I'm 34 going on 74), I saw more fake breasts than I've ever seen before, and I got to relax on the beach and eat some great meals.

The conference ended last night around 8 PM, after a largely disappointing closing reception (not enough food, badly lit room). One of my former co-workers lives in the Miami area, and he met us at the hotel for dinner. We wanted to stay close by, but a consensus soon developed around the idea of going to the Hard Rock Casino on a nearby Seminole reservation. We had a bit of trouble finding the place, but once we saw the lights from the highway we couldn't miss it. I'd only ever been to casinos in Las Vegas, so I was curious if the typical Florida casino patron is of the same species as the Nevada variety. The casino is next to an outdoor shopping mall with a few restaurants, so we chose TATU, an Asian restaurant, for dinner. (No relation to the Russian pop duo, apparently.) I don't know if the place was a chain or a one-off, but the food was excellent. It was some of the best pad thai I've ever had. After dinner we went to the casino itself to see if we could find some of our friends. I was not surprised or disappointed to find that my anthropological theory was correct. There were plenty of old ladies (and old guys) in Members Only jackets chain-smoking in front of slot machines. There were also plenty of beautiful and surgically-enhanced women wandering around, but that didn't help with the depressing impression I had. I didn't like the casinos in Las Vegas, at least not the gambling parts of them, so I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything better from the Hard Rock. In any case we hadn't intended to gamble, and we couldn't find our friends, and it was after midnight and everyone else hadn't slept the night before, so we went back to our hotel.

Back in my room, I found that I'd somehow screwed up my Mac earlier in the day. I had no afternoon sessions to attend so I'd hoped to get down to the beach one more time before I left. But the afternoon thunderstorms that had held off most of the week appeared on schedule at 3 PM, and that put the damper on my beach plans. I went back to my room and read some blogs and tinkered with the Mac. I discovered via the system logs that the Mac was trying to load some software that I thought I'd uninstalled, and that some components of the software were still running. I found a tech support site that told me how to unload everything, and I rebooted and the Mac was fine. Then I went out for the night. When I got back to the room and plugged in my camera, the Mac was sluggish and unresponsive, so I rebooted it again. That's when things really got weird. The Dock crashed and Finder wouldn't load. I took a few deep breaths and didn't panic. What was the worst thing that would happen? I'd have a sad Mac to take home and fix back in my apartment, and I'd have to run to the office over the weekend to pick up my backup drive to restore my data. I rebooted in Safe Mode and OS X came up properly, and after a few minutes of checking some things I rebooted normally. So far (fingers crossed) the Mac has been fine since 2 AM last night. If I have any problems after this I have the Mac OS X DVD at home to help me through my troubles. Besides, I have TV on the plane so it's not like I NEED to use the Mac on the flight. I think I'll be OK.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I should have brought my thongs

I got out of my afternoon sessions a bit early so I decided not to wait and hit the pool and the beach this afternoon. And it was glorious. The pool was refreshing, but the ocean was warm and surprisingly not that deep. I walked a long way out and the water never got above my waist. I played around in the water until I got prune hands and the sun went behind some ominous-looking clouds, but I had a fantastic time. I wish I'd thought to bring my flip-flops, though, as I think I'll end up with sand in my sneakers if I keep wearing them to the beach. But that's a small price to pay to play in the ocean and hang out by the pool.

My first business trip in two years

This week I'm in Hollywood, FL, near Fort Lauderdale and Miami, for an accounting systems user conference. For the past year or so I've been the backup IT administrator for our Unix-based accounting system at work, and one of the privileges (or drawbacks) to that role is that I get to go to the annual conference for this particular system. Last year it was in Vegas, this year it's in Florida. So far it's been a relatively uneventful trip. My flight landed at the Ft. Lauderdale airport just before a major thunderstorm stalled over the field, so we sat on the tarmac for 90 minutes while the airport shut down to wait out the storm. Once I got to the gate, I had another hour-long wait for my luggage. But by late afternoon I was sitting in my room enjoying the ocean view from my balcony and watching another thunderstorm roll by. Tomorrow morning my plan is to get up and work out, then go to the beach and/or the pool before going to a some tutorials in the afternoon. This trip is as close as I'm getting to a beach vacation for a while, so I'm going to try to make the most of it while I'm here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Moving sucks

I'm in the process of sorting my possessions into "keep," "trash," and "sell/donate" piles. So far it's been slow going. I'm moving on July 5, but I have the old apartment until July 31, so I can afford to leave some of my things there while I wait for them to sell on eBay or Craigslist, or for HousingWorks or The Salvation Army to pick them up. But I need to remember that after I've moved to Brooklyn, I won't want to shlep to the Upper East Side to take care of business. When I moved to the UES from the Village I still had my old apartment for three weeks, and I had to stop there occasionally to pick things up or meet with a broker in my unsuccessful attempt to find a new tenant for my lease. Those evenings were not fun, especially during a heat wave. So the more things I can get rid of in the next two weeks, the less I will have to stop by after July 5.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert

I was so shocked and saddened to hear about the death of Tim Russert on Friday afternoon. I've watched Meet the Press for years, mostly because of the wonderful job Russert did as moderator. I've had it programmed into my DVR almost since the day I got it. I found Russert entertaining, engaging, and above all the most well-informed and passionate analyst of the political landscape. I also enjoyed seeing him at 7 AM on the Today show in his role as Washington bureau chief whenever there was a breaking story in the capital. You could tell that he really loved doing what he did, and that there was no other place he'd rather be than at the center of the storm. Watching him with that whiteboard during election night coverage always made me smile. No matter what other technology the network deployed, Russert relied on that whiteboard, and often he had more accurate information to pass along than the computers did. I don't know what's going to happen to Meet the Press now. It's going to continue, of course, but no one can fill his shoes.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

And, it's over

I saw another apartment on Friday evening that I really liked right away, and the next thing I knew, I was filling out the paperwork and texting my friends to let them know I was using them as references. One credit check later, I had an agreement to sign a lease on Sunday afternoon. This afternoon at 2 I was back in the broker's office signing the lease with the landlord and although I am now somewhat poorer than I was on Friday, I have a new apartment for the next two years. I'll be living on President Street in Park Slope in Brooklyn, between 4th and 5th Avenues. The apartment is considerably smaller than my two-bedroom on 1st Avenue in Manhattan, but I think I can shrink the amount of stuff I have to fit into the new space. I have a lot of junk I've been storing in my spare room that needs to go on Craigslist or eBay or be given away. My new apartment includes two air conditioners so I'll be getting rid of the ones I have. It also has laundry machines in the basement, as well as a private storage room for each apartment. When I heard about the storage, I was sold. Keeping my bike in my apartment has been an issue since I moved to New York. It's out of the way in the office but it still takes up valuable space. In the new apartment I'll be able to put it in the basement storage room and free up some space in the apartment proper. I even get a dishwasher! I haven't had one of those since I left DC. The only drawback to the apartment is that it's on the ground floor, with the sidewalk right outside. I'll have to be careful about what I leave out in my living room and when I leave my windows open. The landlord and broker assured me that the building is secure and that nothing short of stupidity (like leaving the windows open and my laptop out) would lead to theft. I hope they're right. I signed a two-year lease, because I knew I wouldn't want to move again next July.

After I signed the lease I spent some time walking around my new neighborhood and checking out the stores and restaurants. I already loved the area, having explored some of it with Kate over the past few months (she lives about 15 blocks away on the other side of Park Slope). I'm close to the subway to get to work, and getting home from rehearsals on Thursday nights shouldn't be an issue. Although with the longer commute I will probably not stay out for drinks as often as I do now. But I'm really excited about the move. I don't look forward to all the work I have to do here to clean out my unnecessary things but when I'm done I will have a much smaller version of myself to move, as an old roommate once said of himself.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

It begins...

...and hopefully ends quickly. My Brooklyn apartment search starts this evening. It's the first time I've done this completely on my own, so I'm a little nervous. But I know what I'm looking for and so I hope I'll find something that suits my needs and my budget, and that I can have the whole process wrapped up before I go on a business trip the last week of June. Then I can move at my convenience sometime in July.

However, these things rarely go according to plan.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Game 5

I should have gone to bed by midnight last night. I'd gone to bed late on Sunday night and suffered for it all day Monday. By the time I left work, I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to eat a quick dinner, watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final between Detroit and Pittsburgh, and go to bed. However, the hockey gods had something else in mind last night.

After the 1st period, I was cautiously optimistic that the Penguins could hold on to their lead. They haven't looked as good in the Finals as they did cruising through the Eastern Conference playoffs, but last night they owned the 1st period. The Red Wings cut the lead to 2-1 in the 2nd period, but I still had hope that I'd see a game 6 on Wednesday. In the 3rd period, two quick goals by the Wings put them minutes away from winning the Cup on home ice and ending the season for Pittsburgh. I started thinking about the groveling messages I'd have to leave for James and my Deadspin friends from Detroit. Then, with time running out, Max Talbot put a rebound past Chris Osgood and tied the game at 3-3. We're going to OT.

I spent the next two hours trying to stay calm and not panic every time the puck was in the Penguins' zone, or on every shot that Marc-Andre Fleury faced. On each one I saw for a brief second the end of the game. Likewise, when the Penguins managed to get the puck into the Wings' zone, I saw them extending the series on each shot. Also, the combination of being tired and excited had me all kinds of punchy. When the announcers said that Petr Sykora said he'd score the game-winner I thought he played for the Wings. It took me a few minutes to remember he was on my team. And at 12:45 AM, Sykora got a centering pass from Evgeni Malkin and shot the puck past Osgood to win the game. I may have woken up my neighbors with my screaming. It was one of the most exciting hockey games I've ever seen.

Now the series goes back to Pittsburgh for Game 6 on Wednesday night. I know the Red Wings are still favored to win the whole thing, but I'm just glad I get to see at least one more hockey game this season. I think the Penguins are more confident now and will give them another game to remember. And I'm really excited about the future of the Penguins. These young players have grown up tremendously during this playoff run. They have a bright future ahead of them.